TRC Young Adult Engagement Team Final Reflection- What’s Next?
by Elyse Brazel, Kaitlyn Duthie, Liz Kessler, Jesse Root
Over the past week, the four of us had the distinct honour to travel from our respective places to Edmonton – Treaty 6 territory – to listen, learn, hurt, and be inspired to action at the final National Event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) on Indian residential schools. We heard courageous survivors tell their stories of pain, struggle, resistance and perseverance in a system which sought to “kill the indian in the child”. We would like to honour those who showed great courage and resilience in participating in this experience of truth telling.
Given that this was the final TRC National Event, the KAIROS young adult engagement team is asking the question: Well, what’s next? How has the ongoing process of truth telling informed the path forward for reconciliation? To echo the words of Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of the TRC: “If you thought the truth part was hard, reconciliation is going to be a lot harder.”
Given this challenge, we want to offer a reflection about what we think should come next, especially as KAIROS and members of our own faith communities discern how to engage in this process of reconciliation. There are a couple of things we know about the process. First, a national research centre is being created at the University of Manitoba to hold and preserve the sacred testimonies of survivors and intergenerational survivors. We also know that at some point in the next year and a half, the commissioners will submit their final report. There will also be a closing event in 2015 to mark the official end of the TRC’s mandate.
As settlers on behalf of whom treaties were signed, we have a covenantal obligation to live in right relationship with Indigenous peoples. As Christians, we understand that covenants are sacred agreements, and this means we have a responsibility to honour them. Honouring treaties is critical to the process of reconciliation, as authentic reconciliation requires going back to the root of our broken relationship and healing that brokenness from its point of origin.
Throughout the event, we offered reflections on the themes of solidarity (http://www.kairoscanada.org/dignity-rights/indigenous-rights/thoughts-on-solidarity-at-the-trc/), surviving and thriving (http://www.kairoscanada.org/dignity-rights/indigenous-rights/surviving-thriving-and-refusing-to-get-over-it/) , and wisdom (http://www.kairoscanada.org/home-page-feature-2/trc-relfection-day-1-wisdom/).
We believe that these thoughts can help guide us in that effort to honour the treaties and heal that trust that has been so severely wounded. In terms of solidarity, we have an obligation to listen to guidance and leadership from Indigenous people of all generations on this journey to reconciliation. Let us accept and rejoice in our role as supporters of an invigorated Indigenous movement, in whatever form that role might take.
We also need to recognize that creating space for surviving and thriving requires decolonizing the institutions that continue to oppress Indigenous peoples in systemic ways, including the justice, mental and physical health, and child welfare systems, as well as the various systems associated with the extraction of natural resources. This requires us to hold our elected leaders responsible for ongoing inequities in our country’s institutions, as well as to be creative in living out justice in our communities. We need to build relationships that honour different forms of wisdom. The truth telling process has been empowering for many, and in order to move forward we must continue to let those diverse truths shape our hearts and minds.
We know that the road to reconciliation is a long and difficult one that involves much work, self-reflection and pain. We know too, however, that Indigenous people are reaching out to us, speaking their truths and courageously offering their stories, in the hope of building relationships based on mutuality and trust. Are we ready to offer back our hands, overcome fear and guilt, and allow ourselves to be transformed by the power of authentic relationship? The four of us are, and we hope that you are ready to join us.